By Ismaila Chafe, Abuja.
President Muhammadu Buhari addressed the UN General Assembly on Wednesday for the last time as Nigeria’s leader.
In his farewell speech, he told the global body that his administration was determined to entrench a process of free, fair, transparent and credible elections through which Nigerians would elect their leaders.
He said: “As president, I have set the goal that one of the enduring legacies I would leave is to entrench a process of free, fair, transparent and credible elections.
“It is through that mechanism that Nigerians will elect leaders of their choice.’’
Buhari told the 77th UN General Assembly that in 2024, a new face would be addressing the Assembly as Nigeria’s leader.
“We are now preparing for general elections in Nigeria next February. At the 78th UN General Assembly, there will be a new face at this podium speaking for Nigeria.
“Ours is a vast country strengthened by its diversity and its common values of hard work, enduring faith and a sense of community.
“We have invested heavily to strengthen our framework for free and fair elections,’’ he said.
The president reiterated his commitment to constitutional term limits and Nigeria’s efforts to promote the rule of law and democracy in West Africa.
He cited Nigeria’s support to The Gambia, Guinea Bissau and Chad during their political impasses.
While highlighting the support for democracy in the West African sub-region, Buhari said that in The Gambia, Nigeria helped to guarantee the first democratic transition since that country’s independence.
He said that Nigeria also stood by the democratically-elected government in Guinea-Bissau when it faced mutiny.
He added that following the tragic death of President Idris Deby Itno of Chad in the battlefield, Nigeria joined forces with its other neighbours and international partners to stabilise the country.
According to him, Nigeria is currently encouraging a peaceful transition to democracy in Chad.
“We believe in the sanctity of constitutional term limits and we have steadfastly adhered to it in Nigeria.
“We have seen the corrosive impact on values when leaders elsewhere seek to change the rules to stay on in power.
“I thank our partners for all the support that they have provided our election institutions,’’ he said.
Buhari noted also that democracy was an idea that traversed time and borders.
“Certainly, democracy does have its limitations.
“The wheels of democracy turn slowly; it can demand compromises that dilute decisions.
“Sometimes, it bends too much to special interests that exercise influence, not always for the general good, in a manner disproportionate to their numbers.
“It has been my experience that a democratic culture provides a government with the legitimacy it needs to deliver positive change,’’ he said.
The Nigerian leader recalled that the first time he could have addressed the UN General Assembly was in 1984 as military Head of State of Nigeria.
Buhari said that it was still a great privilege to personally address the Assembly, 31 years later, in 2015, as the democratically-elected president of Nigeria.
“As I approach the end of my second and final four-year term, I am reminded of how much things have changed in Nigeria; in Africa, and in the world, and yet, how some challenges remain,’’ he added.
The 77th UN General Assembly also focused on pressing international issues, including the consequences of the war in Ukraine, climate change, malignant use of technology and debt service suspension, among other issues.